With a long wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a tree-lined section of the Chicago River, Metropolitan Brewing
's Avondale taproom is practically pastoral. It feels like a hidden refuge, an impression enhanced by the fact that it's located at the back of a large building that's currently very much under construction. "I tell people when they're visiting that if they feel like they're going to be arrested for trespassing, they're in the right place," says Tracy Hurst, who co-owns the brewery with business partner and ex-husband Doug Hurst.
If you find the right entrance, it's actually pretty straightforward: follow the signs for Metropolitan several hundred yards, winding along pathways constructed of sheetrock until you arrive at the taproom. A friend, though, took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up mistakenly knocking on the locked door of Metropolis Coffee, which—somewhat confusingly—is located next door. The brewery and roasting house are the first two tenants of a complex that will eventually house a variety of food-related businesses.
In the nearly ten years that Metropolitan has been making lagers (and only lagers), it's established itself as one of the best breweries in Chicago, so the question at hand is not whether the beer here is good but whether the taproom is a pleasant place to consume it. The answer is yes. It's simultaneously industrial-looking and homey, with not only board games but also a couple of free arcade games courtesy of Logan Arcade. Hanging above the bar, looking for all the world like modern art, are a couple of crankshafts, a nod to the brewery's flagship beer, Krankshaft kolsch. (Actually, it references two different beers: part of the crankshaft is the flywheel, which is the name of Metropolitan's pilsner.) In the brewery itself—visible through a large window in the taproom—disco lights come on after production shuts down for the evening.
Six beers are always on tap: the brewery's four year-round beers; Heliostat Zwickelbier, a raw, unfiltered pilsner; and Haus Helles, which Metropolitan makes for the Radler
. In addition, Hurst says, they'll always have at least one coffee beer and will be experimenting with styles to add to the lineup until eventually all 12 taps are pouring. Like most taprooms, Metropolitan can only serve its own beer, but its lagers go far beyond Bud Light and the other macro brews associated with the style. The menu description for Magnetron Schwarzbier is "the black beer you use to make a fucking point about the diversity of lagers"—and on my visit, an amped-up version brewed with Perla Negra coffee beans, called Javatron and served on nitro, was also available. Even with the tap list not entirely full—seven beers were available when I went—there's a wide range of options. Come summer, I'm looking forward to enjoying one on the taproom's narrow balcony and watching the ducks swim in the river.
Metropolitan Brewing Taproom 3057 N Rockwell, 773-754-0494, metrobrewing.com.